In high school our music teacher said he was once at a concert where the conductor fell backwards off the podium. Whether this story was true or not, it was a good way to encourage us to go and see a real live symphony orchestra in the hope of seeing the conductor fall. Perhaps that was why I was happy to go along with my parents and younger brother and sister to see the West Australian Symphony Orchestra give their free Sunday afternoon concerts at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth. As my parents loved classical music, but had a tight budget, this was a welcome treat.
The greatest classical music festival in the world, the BBC Proms, is now well under way and it was to a prom concert that my parents went on one of their first dates. Dad wasn’t interested in concerts, he just asked Mum where she would like to go for an evening out. Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto was one of the pieces played and Dad loved it.
Unless we are lucky enough to be born into a family of musicians, most of us first hear and absorb music from the radio or themes from television programmes. What is registered in our brains forever depends on our parents’ taste and the decade we were born. Don’t give your age away by mentioning The Lone Ranger when you hear the William Tell Overture.
Despite their love of music my parents never acquired a record player, but just as cassette tapes were being invented Dad acquired a large reel to reel tape recorder for which you could buy classical music tapes. I still had to listen to pop music on friends’ record players. The hefty machine made its way to Australia in our packing cases when we emigrated. Later on, my best friend Marjorie and I commandeered it to record our favourite pop programme, we then did endless GoGo dancing in our little lounge; we must have driven my parents mad.
Promenade concerts had existed in London’s pleasure gardens since the mid 18th century, but The Proms as we know them were inaugurated on 10 August 1895 in the Queen’s Hall by the impresario Robert Newman, seeking a wider audience for concert hall music by offering low ticket prices and an informal atmosphere, where eating, drinking and smoking were permitted to the promenaders! You can still buy £6 tickets on the day of every concert to stand in the arena, but smoking is certainly not on.
If you can’t get along to the Royal Albert Hall all the concerts are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, repeated and available on iplayer. Some are broadcast on television, complete with background film and chats with musicians. We are told that people all over the world will be listening; in Australia my mother once watched the Last Night of the Proms at Christmas, while my sister told me she listened to a prom while driving along a road in the bush.
This is a true festival and there are orchestras and artists from all over the world playing many sorts of music. The first night of the proms featured Anna Meredith/59 Productions’ Five Telegrams, a response to the centenary of the end of the First World War, with specially produced digital projections. It looked fantastic on television, but to fully appreciate it one surely had to be there. Another completely new experience was Jacob Collier and Friends; Jacob, a young vocalist and multi- instrumentalist, became an online sensation with his one man multi tracked arrangements of well known songs.
The musical theme at Tidalscribe continues on Friday with flash fiction ‘Musical Chairs’.
Music inspired my character Emma Dexter in Brief Encounters of the Third Kind. Her mother has good reason to fear her daughter is not human and among her phenomenal abilities she has become a brilliant composer, pianist and violinist.